A town in Germany tried to stop US-Lebanese artist Walid Raad from receiving a €10,000 ($10,951) art prize due to his alleged ties and support for the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
Raad was to be awarded by the German city of Aachen, located near the borders of Belgium and the Netherlands, for his work “The Atlas Group” on the history of the civil war in Lebanon between 1989 and 2004.
In a statement, city Mayor Marcel Philipp said: “According to research, we have to assume that the designated prizewinner is a supporter of the BDS movement and has been involved in various measures for the cultural boycott of Israel.”
It was also reported that the 52-year-old contemporary media artist had been asked about his position regarding his support for the BDS campaign, but his reply was “evasive”.
However, the German news network WDR reported that Raad, who currently teaches at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York, will receive the award after all, through the Ludwig Forum for International Art, a museum in the city that facilitates the award, the Aachen Art Prize.
Ludwig Forum’s CEO, Michael Müller-Vorbrüggen, explained to the German publication Deutschlandfunk, that the museum had obtained the funds to give out the award, and therefore, it did not need the city’s permission to grant Raad the prize.
The Aachen Art Prize is given out biannually to one outstanding contemporary artist, and in addition to the cash prize, an exhibition of the winner’s work is held at the Ludwig Forum.
In May, the German Parliament, known as the Bundestag, became the first in the European Union to pass a motion that designates BDS as anti-Semitic.
BDS, which seeks to financially pressure Israel into ending the occupation of the Palestinian territories and allowing full equality for its Arab-Palestinian citizens, condemned the motion as “anti-Palestinian and unconstitutional”.
The movement, founded in 2005, has claimed several recent successes, with singer Lana Del Rey and 19 other artists pulling out of a summer festival in Israel.
Last month, the German city of Dortmund withdrew its decision to award Pakistani-British author Kamila Shamsie a literature prize, after finding out that the writer has supported the BDS movement, a decision that was backed by the Association of German Writers.